Pastor on We're Here opens up about being relieved of duties after appearing in drag: 'It was painful'
The Indiana pastor who was relieved of his duties after performing in drag on the HBO docuseries We're Here is opening up about the criticism he got from the church, calling it a "painful" time for him and his family.
"It made me depressed," Craig Duke said of the negative response he encountered, in a new interview on Friday's The Tamron Hall Show.
"You know, the church has always been a fickle place, faith has always been a challenging thing, but when you experience something that was such a high for our family and to have been accepted so widely by those that are either allies or in the LGBTQIA+ community, and then to be so rejected by those within the religious community and beyond, it was painful," he told the host.
Duke was featured on the Nov. 8, 2021, episode of the Emmy-nominated series, which follows RuPaul's Drag Race alums Bob the Drag Queen, Eureka O'Hara, and Shangela as they travel to small towns across the U.S. putting on community drag shows alongside select locals, to whom they each serve as a drag mother, teaching them the art of performing drag and finding self-love. In the episode centered in Evansville, Ind., Eureka was paired with Duke, then a pastor at the Newburgh United Methodist Church, who appeared on the show in support of his daughter who is pansexual. Duke, wearing a pink wig and high-heeled boots, performed with Eureka to Kesha's "We Are Who We Are."
After the episode aired, Craig was "relieved from pastoral duties," according to a letter from church leadership that explained he would no longer "be at the church in any capacity."
"It was painful for our family, and then to be out of the church," Duke told Hall of the experience. "I got into ministry to be with people, to preach, to talk and be all those things and I wasn't able to, and so what started out as what I thought would be away for a little bit, it ended up being much longer."
He explained of his ouster: "They really can't fire a person in my denomination, but yeah they made the decision that it was severe enough of an experience, that they were uncomfortable enough with that experience that I wouldn't be coming back to serve that church again, yeah."
"Craig is an amazing person and deserves the same love that he shares with everyone around him," Eureka tweeted in December after Duke's supporters organized a GoFundMe page to help the family with the financial hit of losing his job.
Shangela also posted a video on Instagram at the time, saying Duke "has been bullied by a large portion of his church congregation out of his role (or with relieved duties) because of his showcase of love for the LGBTQ+ community. Let's take a stand."
We're Here co-creator Stephen Warren told PEOPLE that while the creators "expected resistance" to the show, "we didn't expect this to happen to Craig."
Show reps had no new comment when reached by EW.
Watch Duke's interview with Tamron Hall above.
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